Born May 8, 1936, in Riga, Latvia
Manny was born to a religious Jewish family in the port city of Riga, Latvia. Shortly after Manny’s birth, his father accepted a post as one of the four chief cantors in Budapest and the family returned to Hungary, where they had lived before 1933. Manny’s father was based at the renowned Rombach Street synagogue. Between the wars, Budapest was an important Jewish center in Europe.
1933-39: After anti-Jewish laws were passed in 1938, Jews were severely harassed in Hungary. Manny’s father wouldn’t allow his son to have a bicycle. He thought someone might steal the bicycle because they were Jewish. Manny’s father followed him to school every day, even though it was only a few blocks. He was worried someone might push Manny into traffic, as there had been similar incidents.
1940-44: Manny was seven when the Germans occupied Budapest in March 1944. His mother knew of the impending deportation. Manny and his family were among a group of Jews whom Adolf Eichmann offered to trade for Allied materiel. In exchange for trucks and other goods, some 1600 Hungarian Jews left Hungary by train, with the promise that they would be permitted to enter Switzerland. After difficulties in the negotiations, Manny and his family were diverted on a train to Bergen-Belsen camp. They were taken to Switzerland by Nazi transport in late 1944, first to a Red Cross hotel near Montreux and then to a children’s home in Heiden.
In 1945 Manny and his mother emigrated on a British troop ship to Palestine. He moved to the United States in 1949.